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IoT Signals healthcare report: Key opportunities to unlock IoT’s promise

The cost of healthcare is rising globally and to tackle this, medical providers – from hospitals to your local doctor’s office – are looking to IoT to streamline processes and minimize costs.

The cost of healthcare is rising globally and to tackle this, medical providers, from hospitals to your local doctor’s office, are looking to IoT to streamline processes and minimize costs. Few industries stand to gain more from emerging technology. And in few industries the stakes are higher because, in healthcare, incremental efficiencies can make the difference between life and death.

The International Data Corporation (IDC) expects that by 2025 there will be 41.6 billion connected IoT devices or ‘things,’ generating more than 79 zettabytes (ZB) of data.i In the healthcare industry, IoT has emerged as a valuable tool to help ensure quality and better patient care. IoT is used to manage everything from chronic diseases to medication dosages to medical equipment—situations where security flaws in devices are potentially life-threatening. By helping to reduce human error, improve safety conditions, increase staff satisfaction, and make organizations more efficient, IoT can ultimately improve health outcomes.

Insights from new IoT Signals Healthcare report

Today we're launching a new IoT Signals report focused on the healthcare industry that provides an industry pulse on the state of IoT adoption. This research enables us to better serve our partners and customers, as well as help healthcare leaders develop their own IoT strategies. We surveyed 152 decision-makers in enterprise healthcare organizations across multiple countries to deliver an industry-level view of the IoT ecosystem, including adoption rates, related technology trends, challenges, and benefits of IoT.

What the study found is that while IoT has had broad adoption in healthcare (89 percent) and is considered critical to success, healthcare organizations are still challenged by security, compliance and privacy concerns, as well as skills shortages. To summarize the findings:

  1. IoT is helping healthcare organizations become safer and more efficient. With the sensitive and highly regulated nature of healthcare work, leveraging IoT for patient monitoring, quality assurance, and logistical support is quite prevalent. IoT is helping organizations ensure quality in these areas while improving patient care.
  2. To expand IoT implementations, organizations must tackle regulatory and compliance challenges. Healthcare organizations must continue to keep patient information private and comply with evolving regulatory standards while proving the return on investment of IoT. Overcoming barriers around evolving data regulations is key for healthcare organizations, and many are adopting numerous standards. Over 8 in 10 have adopted either HL7, DICOM, or CMS Interoperability, with HL7 FHIR and DICOM being the most common.
  3. IoT talent shortages exist. Getting IoT off the ground is a challenge for any company, given technology challenges, long-term commitments, and the investment required. It’s doubly so for healthcare organizations that lack talent and resources. In fact, 43 percent of those surveyed cited lack of budget and staff as roadblocks to success, with 34 percent specifically concerned about a lack of skilled workers and technical knowledge. Furthermore, 25 percent said a lack of resources and knowledge were key factors in their ability to scale, and in proof-of-concept failures.
  4. The future of IoT in healthcare will extend beyond patient care, with strong growth in optimizing logistics and operations. While IoT usage for patient care will continue to grow and remain a top use case in the future, decision-makers see strong potential to leverage IoT more to support the logistics and operational side of their organizations. Significant IoT growth is expected in facilities management and staff tracking. Decision-makers also anticipate improved safety, compliance, and efficiency through increased IoT implementation within supply chain management, inventory tracking, and quality assurance as patient care catches up with traditional IoT scenarios like manufacturing, logistics, supply chain, and quality.

Microsoft is leading the charge to address these IoT challenges

There are many ways in which healthcare organizations can benefit by leveraging the Azure IoT platform to connect and control devices:

  1. Simplify patient monitoring while reducing healthcare costs. Continuous monitoring of assets connected to healthcare applications, including battery life and general health of devices, allows providers to deliver personalized patient care anytime, anywhere and equips their care team with a near real-time view of the patient’s health and activities.
  2. Optimize medical equipment utilization. Medical staff can avoid equipment downtime and misplacement, and allocate more time for patients, when they connect and track machines, supplies, and other assets through the cloud and monitor their usage for optimal deployment.
  3. Proactively replenish supplies. Healthcare facilities can better ensure safety and efficacy through cold chain tracking to monitor, maintain, and automate life-saving vaccine storage and distribution by connecting devices to the cloud and proactively replenishing contents.

Across all these applications, we see common benefits provided by cloud computing, including:

  • Greater trust around the security of health data.
  • Near infinite scale for storing and processing large amounts of data.
  • Increased speed in gaining access to new tools, more storage space, or greater computing power.
  • Economical use of resources.
  • Scaling up and down as demand fluctuates in terms of, for instance, natural disasters.

Our commitment

We are committed to helping healthcare customers bring their visions to life with IoT, and this starts with simplifying and securing IoT. Our customers are embracing IoT as a core strategy to drive better patient outcomes and we are heavily investing in this space, committing $5 billion in IoT and intelligent edge innovation by 2022 and growing our IoT and intelligent edge partner ecosystem to over 10,000.

Our vision is to simplify IoT, enabling every business on the planet to benefit. We have the most comprehensive portfolio of IoT platform services and are pushing to further simplify IoT solution development with our scalable, fully managed IoT app platform Azure IoT Central. Solution builders are accelerated from proof of concept to production using IoT Central application templates like our healthcare template for continuous patient monitoring. We work hard to ensure healthcare organizations have a robust talent pool of IoT developers, providing free training for common application patterns and deployments through our IoT School and AI School.

Security is paramount for healthcare customers. Azure Sphere takes a holistic security approach from silicon to cloud, providing a highly secured solution for connected microcontroller units (MCUs,) that go into devices ranging from connected home devices to medical and industrial equipment. Azure Security Center provides unified security management and advanced threat protection for systems running in the cloud and on the edge. Azure Sphere combined with a real-time operating system (RTOS) delivers a better together solution that can help real-time medical apps improve the performance in IoT medical devices, including medical imaging systems, by ensuring they meet data regulation requirements.

Finally, we’re helping our healthcare customers leverage their IoT investments with AI and at the intelligent edge. Azure IoT Edge enables customers to distribute cloud intelligence to run in isolation on IoT devices directly and Azure Stack Edge builds on Azure IoT Edge and adds virtual machine and mass storage support.

When IoT is foundational to a healthcare organization’s transformation strategy, it can have a significant positive impact on patient care, safety, and the bottom line. We're invested in helping our partners, customers, and the broader industry to take the necessary steps to address barriers to success and invent with purpose.

Read the full IoT Signals healthcare report and learn how we're helping healthcare providers embrace the future and unlock new opportunities with IoT.

i Worldwide Global DataSphere IoT Device and Data Forecast, 2019–2023, (Doc #US45066919), May 2019.